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The Quill-Work girl and her seven brothers

A Cheyenne Legend

Hundreds of years ago there was a girl who was very  good  at  quill  work,   so
good that she was the best among all the tribes everywhere.   Her  designs  were
radiant with color, and she could decorate anything clothing, pouches,  quivers,
even tipi's. One day this girl sat down in  her  parents'  lodge  and  began  to
make a man's outfit of white  buckskin  --  war  shirt,   leggings,   moccasins,
gauntlets, everything. It took  her  weeks  to  embroider  them  with  exquisite
quill work and fringes of buffalo hair marvelous to look at. Though  her  mother
said nothing, she wondered. The girl had no  brothers,   nor  was  a  young  man
courting her, so why was she making a man's outfit?

As if life wasn't strange enough, no sooner had she finished  the  first  outfit
than she began working on a second, then on a third. She worked all  year  until
she had made and decorated seven complete sets of men's  clothes,   the  last  a
very small one. The mother just watched and kept wondering. At  last  after  the
girl had finished the seventh outfit, she  spoke  to  her  mother.   "Someplace,
many days' walk from here, lives seven brothers," she said.   "Someday  all  the
world will admire them. Since I am an only child, I want to  take  them  for  my
brothers, and these clothes are for them." "It  is  well,   my  daughter, "  her
mother said. "I will go with you."

"This is too far for you to walk," said the girl.

"Then I will go part of the way," said her mother.

They loaded their strongest dogs with the  seven  bundles  and  set  off  toward
the  north.   "You  seem  to   know    the    way,   "    said    the    mother.

"Yes,   I  don't  know  why,   but  I    do,   "    answered    the    daughter.

"And you seem to know all about these  seven  young  men  and  what  makes  them
stand out from ordinary humans."

"I  know  about  them, "  said  the  girl,   "though  I  don't  know    how.   "

Thus they walked, the girl seeming sure of herself. At  last  the  mother  said,
"This is as far as I can go." They divided the dogs, the girl  keeping  two  for
her journey, and took leave of each other. Then the  mother  headed  south  back
to her village and her husband, while her daughter continued  walking  into  the

At last the daughter came to a lone, painted, and very large  tipi  which  stood
near a wide stream. The stream was shallow and she waded  across  it,   calling:
"It  is  I,   the  young-girl-looking-for-brothers,       bringing    gifts.   "

At that a small boy about ten years old  came  out  of  the  tipi.   "I  am  the
youngest of seven brothers," he told the girl.   "The  others  are  out  hunting
buffalo, but they'll come back after a while. I have been  expecting  you.   But
you'll be a surprise to my brothers, because they don't have  my  special  gifts
of `No Touch'."

"What is the gift of no touch?" asked the girl.

"Sometime  you'll  find  out.       Well,       come    into    the    tipi.   "

The girl gave the boy the smallest  outfit,   which  fitted  him  perfectly  and
delighted him with its beautiful quill work.

"I  shall  take  you  all  for  my  brothers,   "    the    girl    told    him.

"And  I  am  glad  to  have  you  for  a  sister,   "    answered    the    boy.

The girl took all the other bundles off her two dogs' backs  and  told  them  to
go  back  to  her  parents,   and  at  once  the  dogs  began  trotting   south.

Inside the tipi were seven beds of willow sticks and sage.   The  girl  unpacked
her bundles and put a war shirt, a pair of leggings, a pair of  moccasins,   and
a pair of gauntlets upon each of the older brothers' beds.   Then  she  gathered
wood and built a fire. From her packs she took dried meat, choke cherries,   and
kidney fat, and cooked a meal for eight.

Toward evening just as the meal was ready,   the  six  older  brothers  appeared
laden with buffalo meat. The little boy  ran  outside  the  lodge  and  capered,
kicking his heels and jumping up and down,  showing  off  his  quilled  buckskin

"Where  did  you  get    these    fine    clothes?"    the    brothers    asked.

"We have a new sister," said the child. "She's  waiting  inside,   and  she  has
clothes for you too. She does the most wonderful quill work in the  world.   And
she's beautiful herself!"

The brothers greeted the girl joyfully. They were  struck  with  wonder  at  the
white buckskin outfits she had brought as gifts for them. They were as  glad  to
have a sister to care for as she was to have brothers to cook and  make  clothes
for. Thus they lived happily.

One day after the  older  brothers  had  gone  out  to  hunt,   a  light-colored
buffalo- calf appeared at the tipi and  scratched  and  knocked  with  his  hoof
against the entrance flap. The boy  came  out  and  asked  it  what  it  wanted.

"I am sent by the buffalo nation," said  the  calf.   "We  have  heard  of  your
beautiful sister, and we want her for our own."

"You can't have her," answered the boy. "Go away."

"Oh well, then somebody bigger than I will come," said  the  calf  and  ran  off
jumping and kicking its heels.

The next day when the boy and the sister  were  alone  again,   a  young  heifer
arrived,  lowing  and  snorting,   rattling  the  entrance  flap  of  the  tipi.

Once  more    the    child    came    out    to    ask    what    she    wanted.

"I am sent by the buffalo nation," said the heifer.   "We  want  your  beautiful
sister for ourselves."

"You can't have her," said the boy. "Go away!"

"Then somebody bigger than I will come," said the heifer,   galloping  off  like
the calf before her.

On the third day a large buffalo cow, grunting loudly, appeared  at  the  lodge.
The  boy  came  out  and  asked,   "Big  buffalo  cow,   what  do  you    want?"

"I am sent by the buffalo nation," said the cow.  "I  have  come  to  take  your
beautiful sister. We want her."

"You can't have her," said the boy. "Go away!"

"Somebody very big will come after me," said the buffalo  cow,   "and  he  won't
come alone. He'll kill you if you don't  give  him  your  sister. "  With  these
words the cow trotted off.

On the fourth day the older brothers stayed  home  to  protect  the  girl.   The
earth began to tremble a little, then to rock and heave. At  last  appeared  the
most gigantic buffalo bull in the world, much  larger  than  any  you  see  now.
Behind him came the whole buffalo nation, making the earth shudder.  Pawing  the
ground, the huge  bull  snorted  and  bellowed  like  thunder.   The  six  older
brothers, peering out through the entrance hole, were  very  much  afraid,   but
the little boy stepped boldly outside. "Big, oversized buffalo  bull,   what  do
you want from us?" he asked.

"I want your sister," said the giant buffalo bull. "If you  won't  give  her  to
me, I'll kill you all."

The boy called for his sister and older brothers to come out.  Terrified,   they
did so.

"I'll take her now," growled the huge bull.

"No," said the boy, "she doesn't want to be taken.   You  can't  have  her.   Go

"In that case I'll kill  you  now, "  roared  the  giant  bull.   "I'm  coming!"

"Quick, brother, use your special medicine!" the six  older  brothers  cried  to
the youngest.

"I am using it," said he. "Now all of you, catch hold of the  branches  of  this
tree. Hurry!" He pointed to a tree growing by the tipi. The  girl  and  the  six
brothers jumped up into its branches. The boy took his bow and swiftly  shot  an
arrow into the tree's trunk, then clasped the trunk tightly  himself.   At  once
the tree started to grow, shooting up into the sky in no time at  all.   It  all
happened much, much quicker than it can be told.

The brothers and the girl were lifted up in the tree  branches,   out  of  reach
of the buffalo. They watched the herd of angry animals  grunting  and  snorting,
milling around the tree far below.

"I'll chop the tree down with my horns!" roared the giant buffalo.   He  charged
the tree, which shook like a willow and swayed back and forth.   Trying  not  to
fall off, the girl and the brothers clutched the branches.   The  big  bull  had
gouged a large piece of wood from the trunk.

The little boy said, "I'd better use one more arrow. "  He  shot  another  arrow
high into the treetop, and again the tree grew,  shooting  up  another  thousand
feet  or  so,   while  the  seven  brothers  and  the  girl  rose    with    it.

The giant buffalo bull made his second charge.  Again  his  horns  stabbed  into
the tree and splintered wood far and wide. The gash  in  the  trunk  had  become

The boy said, "I must shoot another arrow." He did, hitting the  treetop  again,
and  quick  as  a   flash    the    tree    rose    another    thousand    feet.

A third time the bull charged, rocking the tree, making it  sway  from  side  to
side so that the brothers and the girl almost tumbled  out  of  their  branches.
They cried to the boy to save them. The child  shot  a  fourth  arrow  into  the
tree, which rose again so that the seven young  men  and  the  girl  disappeared
into the clouds. The gash in  the  tree  trunk  had  become  dangerously  large.

"When that bull charges again, he will  shatter  this  tree, "  said  the  girl.
"Little brother, help us!"

Just as the bull charged for the fourth time, the child loosed  a  single  arrow
he had left, and the tree rose above the clouds.

"Quick, step out right on the clouds. Hurry!" cried the little boy.   "Don't  be

The bull's head hit the tree trunk with a fearful impact.   His  horns  cut  the
trunk in two, but just as the tree slowly began to topple,  the  seven  brothers
and  the  girl  stepped    off    it's    branches    and    into    the    sky.

There the eight of them stood. "Little brother, what  will  become  of  us  now?
We can  never  return  to  earth;  we're  up  too  high.   What  shall  we  do?"

"Don't  grieve, "  said  the  little  boy,   "I'll  turn  us  into    stars.   "

At once the seven brothers and the girl were  bathed  in  radiant  light.   They
formed themselves into what the white men call the  Big  Dipper.   You  can  see
them there now. The brightest star is the beautiful girl,  who  is  filling  the
sky with glimmering quill work, and the star twinkling at the very  end  of  the
Dipper's handle is the little boy. Can you see him?
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